Robin Willoughby will be baking cookies from an old holiday recipe, hanging stockings for all the kids-regardless of age-spoiling the pair of grandchildren she knows will be there on Christmas, and keeping her fingers crossed the other two make it from Florida. All this after hosting an employee party at her restaurant and a special customer-appreciation party.
She isn't the only grandparent burning the midnight oil this December in Aurora, Ind., though. Konnie Couch, whose salons are located across the street from Willougbhy's restaurant, starts her season with an employee family party, complete with food, Santa and gifts for the staff and their children. Christmas morning she and her husband get to sleep in, but when the grandkids arrive, the present chaos begins. Steak and crab legs (her dad's favorite) might seem a little unorthodox, but she follows with her mom and grandmother's traditional homemade sugar cookies and fudge.
It would make Norman Rockwell proud, were it not for Willoughby's business being broken into and cash stolen in 2011. The perpetrator died in a police shootout. Then one day, she and her husband came home to discover the back door open and someone going out the front. "What if I had been by myself and they didn't have time to get out?" she asked.
"Our house was the first of our two robberies," Couch said. First, a worker took jewelry from closets. Authorities caught the criminal, but not before he burglarized more homes and beat a female restaurant owner. Couch's business was hit shortly after, with the act caught on video. "We watched those guys go through our building faster and easier than we do," she said. Had she walked in on the hardened criminals-repeat offenders sentenced to 47 and 26 years-it could have been disastrous.
The close encounters were enough, so the pair established Women Armed and Ready (WAR). The organization held its first meeting on May 6 and has already grown to more than 65 members. "As a law-abiding American citizen, it is your right by our constitution," Couch said. "As a mother and grandmother, it is my responsibility to protect my family."
They're serious about training, too. "The club goes to the range [Laughery Valley Fish and Game Club] once a month under the instruction of Dale Reatherford," Willoughby said. A lot of additional knowledge also surrounds them-her husband was a Hamilton County Deputy, her son was a member of the Navy's K-9 Military Police, Couch's husband was a firearm instructor for the U.S. Marine Corps and her son is in the Navy. "So we have plenty of instruction and a lot of compe-tition," she said. There's also a monthly meeting at Willoughby's Big Daddys Bar-B-Q or Little Mama's Fixin's.
"For generations women have been labeled as the weaker sex and when handling guns, men in general treat women like children," Willoughby said. "Well, it's time for women to step up and say, ‘I can do this myself.' [I]n an all-woman group they can be themselves, to learn, to practice and lean on each other if they have a problem."
Couch said there is a problem in the stereotype that man is the provider and protector, while the woman is the nurturer, even in their town of roughly 3,500 people. "Only other women can know what truly scares us," she said. "Training with all women not only helps each of us to understand what the other has gone through, we are able to help each other in coping, with ideas and confidence building."
Note to criminals: Aurora, Ind., is not a soft target. "These ladies become sisters in WAR," Couch said, "dedicated to the empowerment to protect ourselves, our families and each other."